I want to start this article on a positive note, and would like to wish all my readers and their families a Happy New Year. Spending time with family around the holiday is a cherished blessing that we should all be very grateful for. Legal family issues can be very sensitive for the family to discuss openly, but I personally think that a healthy family that cherishes healthy relationships should discuss legal matters that may arise from misfortunes in the future, like having to deal with inheritance laws.
Having a death in the family is not easy to bear, and even those who have lost loved ones before can’t understand what you are going through. Everyone deals with things differently, and I can imagine how hard it would be to deal with a lawyer while you are mourning. Today I will answer questions related to this matter in hopes that families will be more open to the idea of discussing such issues.
Question: Fortunately, my family comes from different religions and different backgrounds – which law will apply to us, should there be a family death?
Fajer: This depends greatly on who has passed away and where they are from, and whether the dead person has made a will or not. In Kuwait, Shiite and Sunni courts deal with inheritance differently. The matter is very complicated and it is not something that you want to find out at a time of mourning. This is why I always suggest for my clients to see a lawyer before anything happens and to ask these questions and to understand what law applies to them or what law they would like to be applied to them, so they have the full picture. I also suggest they hire a lawyer before anything happens, so when an unfortunate event takes place, they are prepared.
Question: We are a Kuwaiti family. Is it true that men get twice as much as women when it comes to inheritance? How can we avoid this? How is this fair?
Fajer: This is true for children or for brothers and sisters. A brother will receive twice as much as a sister. Although this is by law, lawyers can assist parents who would like their children to have approximately equal amounts with other legal procedures that they can do prior to death, to ensure that when they do pass away, their daughters/sons will receive a fair share of the inheritance.
Many Muslim scholars say that although there is no equality between the two genders under law when it comes to inheritance, it is still fair because by law, a man is required to take full responsibility of his family financially, including his wife. So if a grandparent passes away and has two sons and two daughters, the wealth will be divided into three parts – one for each son, and one part to be shared by the two daughters. The daughters though will not have to share this amount with their children, whereas the man should share the amount with his wife and children.
Question: I am not Kuwaiti but I would like to make a will for my wife to manage all my belongings in Kuwait should something happen to me in the future. Can I do this?
Fajer: Yes, you could, but this depends on what law applies to you or what law you have your marriage under. If the applicable law prohibits your wife from managing your wealth in Kuwait, then you could give her the right through the Kuwaiti courts or have the will written in your country but notarized in Kuwait.
For any legal questions, queries or if you need legal assistance, email [email protected]
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed